By : Shashank Suresh
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populated state, has introduced a divisive measure to limit population growth. It recommends that anybody with more than two children is denied government employment, promotions, subsidies, and the opportunity to run for local office.
Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, sparked a heated discussion when he announced the Uttar Pradesh Population Policy 2021-2030 on World Population Day. From the present rate of 2.7, the programme intends to reduce the overall fertility rate among women to 2.1 by 2026 and 1.9 by 2030.
According to the policy, efforts will be undertaken to improve access to contraceptive measures as part of the family planning programme and to establish a proper system for safe abortions. Provisions have been made to guarantee that all people have access to health care, with a specific focus on pregnant women, babies, ill new-borns, and extremely malnourished children.
India was the first country to adopt the 1951 Population Policy, but following the Emergency and the public outcry over forced sterilisations, the entire issue of the population became taboo. This was laid to rest by Sanjay Gandhi’s Emergency-era nasbandi. Despite the two-year forced huge spike, numbers that had previously averaged several million each year were reduced to almost nothing.
Vasectomies have never exceeded a few thousand a year since then, despite valiant efforts to revive them. Because of political meddling, a safe and effective male contraception technique needing only a minor operation has lost public faith.
The National Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is 2.2, only a tiny bit below the TFR of 2.1 required for India to achieve replacement level fertility. A woman replaces herself during her reproductive life. The TFR in Uttar Pradesh, which was 2.7 at the time of the latest census, is continuously decreasing.
Even yet, the greater TFR has counterbalanced states that have fallen below 2.1, allowing India’s more progressive portions to avoid the future worries of European countries, Japan, and China, who are all concerned about a lack of energetic working-age young to fuel a thriving economy. Despite several financial incentives to increase, Japan and even Malaysia have been unable to persuade family size change via a political will.
The so-called population explosion has long been blamed on Muslims by the right-wing. It has often attempted to instil panic among Hindus by claiming that Muslims are rapidly reproducing to surpass them and seize political power. Many BJP and RSS leaders have pushed Hindus to have more children on numerous occasions. This propaganda is completely misinformed, if not downright malicious.
While Muslim fertility has been most significant, it is due to illiteracy, poverty, and a lack of access to health care, which are the three critical drivers of reproductive behaviour. In Muslim clusters, delivering all sorts of services, including health and family planning, is the worst. Despite these challenges, Muslim adoption of family planning has been unexpectedly high in recent decades, outpacing Hindu adoption. As a result, the fertility gap, which was never more than one kid has shrunk to 0.48.
Intention behind implementation
According to demographers, one explanation is the disparity in rates throughout India. Bihar, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh, which account for about 40% of India’s population, have fertility rates that are more significant than the replacement level of 2.1. In comparison, Kerala (1.8), Karnataka (1.7), Andhra Pradesh (1.7), and Goa (1.3) all have lower rates.
Political observers think that Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, is planning to run in the state elections next year. Furthermore, by making such a bold move, he conveys a development plan distinct from his contentious right-wing Hindu nationalist image.
Population Control is also not a novel concept. More than 125 MPs wrote to the president in 2018 requesting the establishment of a two-child policy. The Supreme Court denied numerous petitions seeking population control measures in the same year, citing the risk of a civil war-like situation. Three members of Mr Adityanath’s cabinet proposed measures in parliament last year to limit the population. Since the early 1990s, 12 states have introduced some version of the two child-policy.
CM Adityanath has to go back to the drawing board and reconsider his election-driven approach. Rework the entire process to account for societal and socioeconomic issues and advancements in healthcare infrastructure. Proposed changes will result in demographic and social well-being stabilisation. Otherwise, he is doomed to repeat the mistakes of Sanjay Gandhi.